Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

August 3, 2006

GAO audit shows border vulnerabilities

Filed under: Border Security — by Christian Beckner on August 3, 2006

The GAO released the results of an audit of border checkpoint security yesterday, following up to similar audits in recent years. The report chronicles numerous examples of officers failing to detect the counterfeit ID’s used by the GAO investigators to secure entry. The New York Times reports on the audit in today’s paper.

This is far from surprising – it’s the way that the system is designed to work today. The job of CBP border officer is essentially to conduct triage, using scarce resources to focus on obviously high-risk entry while more or less waving everyone else through. If the auditors who conducted these tests spoke good English and looked clean-cut, then of course they would’ve been waved through and not subjected to extra checks. (The report doesn’t clarify the race, accents, demeanor, and/or physical appearance of the auditors).

The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) would help to redress this vulnerability, and at the same time preserve expeditious entry – a worthwhile objective, but one that is easier said than done, as evidenced by the difficulties that DHS and State have faced in developing programs to implement the WHTI over the last year. It’s probably necessary to postpone the WHTI deadlines at this point, given the lack of progress to date, and certain changes are needed (e.g. lowering the cost of the PASS cards), but by no means should the WHTI objectives be abandoned.

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